Understanding the Difference Between Influence and Influencer — Justin Levy - Social, Influencer & Content Marketing

Understanding the Difference Between Influence and Influencer — Justin Levy - Social, Influencer & Content Marketing

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Hi, my name is Justin Levy and welcome to another episode of Influencer Impact. Today I am joined by the myth, the man in the legend, Mr. Jason Falls. Jason, how are you?

I'm great, Justin, how are you, man?

I'm good. Now before we jump into it, suffice it to say as scary as it is, we've known each other for close to 15 years now. Yeah. And over that time, we could do an entire episode on all the good, and the shenanigans we found ourselves in over the years. Uh-huh. But maybe we'll save that for another time.

I will make a little color in there for him.

So why don't you tell everyone what you do by day and a little bit of who you are?

Sure. So I recently sort of migrated away from several years on the agency side of things to start my own consulting firm that focuses on influence marketing strategy. And so I'm really kind of narrowly focused on building out influence strategies for agencies and brands, I've got several agency clients that are sort of helping me sort of coach them up on influencers. And then I've got a couple of agencies that basically just, you know, bake my services into what they offer their clients, including my former agency that I just migrated away from coronet and so basically build influencer marketing strategies. And then sort of on the on the side, I also run a podcast network for marketing podcasts. I've always got something else going on. But that's primarily what I do, I really focus very deeply on the influence space.

Now, you've been an influencer or creator for years, when you've worked with brands, and now you like you said, you're on that other side, as well, helping to advise and coach brands, what would you say is that thing that companies typically get wrong, whether it's in their outreach to you as an influencer, or when they come to you with an ask to do with influencer program?

Sure. And I do feel like I have the advantage of walking both sides of the aisle, because within the marketing technology space, primarily, I'm also a kind of a niche, niche influencer myself. So I see it from both sides. The biggest problem I think brands have or the biggest mistake they make, whether it's b2b or b2c is that they, they don't value or at least they don't overtly value, the creative direction that the influencer brings to the table. And that's a nice way of saying they want too much control. They want to control the message, they want to control the art, they want to control everything about it.

And the power of engaging an influencer or a content creator online is they know how to communicate best to their audience. So we're still in a phase where many brands will say, Okay, we want this many posts, and we want them to say our brand name this many time, and we have to save the name within the first three seconds of the video. And the product has to be featured this percentage of time. And that's just that doesn't do well, in the influence space. It's, hey, here's our product, here are the things we would like for you to emphasize about our product. But please find a way to communicate about this product or service to your audience the way that you see fit. Because they're way better at doing that than you are because they know their audience better. So it's really the mistake of not trusting the Creator to drive the creative.

Yeah, it's something that I see all the time because you as a company approach an influencer because of a number of factors, right? One of them being that you appreciate their audience and the type of content they're creating. But then a lot of companies try to change that. Yeah, right. So if they want that influencer to create, say, a blog post, but their audience knows them for creating videos on LinkedIn, that won't mesh with their audience, because their audience likes those videos in a certain format as well that they shoot them or that they like to communicate them.

Yeah, the thing that I like to talk to clients about is what you want to try to find our creators that fit your brand that are on brand for you. So if you are if one of the things that's paramount to your brand is super high production quality videos, well there's a good number of content creators out there that are not going to be good for you because the influencer space is people shooting videos on their phone and you know, in a very, sort of natural organic situations and so that's not the kind of production quality you want. Then don't hire those type of influencers. Hire the ones who put a lot of effort have production teams behind what they do, then you're gonna be more satisfied with the output. So find those creators who are more on-brand. And that way you don't have as much of a gap to close between what you want to see and what they produce.

Now, I think you bring up an interesting point about, you know, align into what the brand actually wants, in your case, your example high-quality video versus something more natural, say, from a phone or what have you. But something that I think we have a shared belief in, is to take that chance, maybe outside your comfort zone, as a company. So maybe you do tend to lean towards, in this case, high-touch video. But take that chance, be willing to take that chance on that influencer, who one might be smaller, not as much of a name per se, if that's not saying that they fit in the category of mega or micro or what have you, they just might not be the typical mean influencer. But maybe it's in a type of concept that you're not the most comfortable with as

Yeah, and I think a good example of that is certainly with Tiktok, and Instagram reels and stories, you know, a lot of the, I guess the, the trendy style is for everybody to add, you know, text over the video, or the photo and their stickers, and there's all sorts of other, you know, graphic accouterments that people put on their stuff. Well, that's not necessarily going to fit into your brand style guide.

But it fits into that creators style guide and the type of content that that creator’s audience responds to, and is used to seeing, if you were to take somebody who creates really fun, engaging, bright, you know, Instagram stories, and they have stickers and flashy things, and all sorts of things going on in their stories because they know it gets their audience's attention. And then all of a sudden, you put handcuffs on them and make them shoot a very straight-laced Instagram story of video that doesn't have any of those bells and whistles because you need it to fit into your brand style guide. Their audiences are going to even look at it and be like, That's not that's got to be some ad or something, because it's not what I'm used to seeing.

So again, you have to trust that the Creator knows how to communicate your message through their channels and through their eyes. And if you do that, and you let go a little bit in some of those instances, it doesn't have to be content you're posting on your channels necessarily. So it doesn't have to, you know, taint your brand at all. It's just let's communicate through this influencer’s eyes to their audience about our brand. And when you let go a little bit and trust them, you get a lot better results because again, their audience is going to pay closer attention.

Speaking of TikTok and vertical video, one thing that I know you've been on a rant lately about is the Tick Tock reification, if you want to call it of content, the vertical versus horizontal video. Yeah. So what do you mean by that? And for those that haven't heard this rant before? What is that? Yeah, buckle

up. Here we go. So I'm an old-school guy, I was I have a radio TV degree, that was my undergraduate degree. And I learned television production, I learned video and back then you're, you know, when when I was in school, and I'm older, I'll admit that. So you know, I'm approaching 50.

When I was in school, the dimension of television screen was a four to three ratio. And then when high definition came out, it was 16 to nine ratio, and it was landscape. And it was landscape, because you can see more of the perspective of what's happening because you have a wider screen, up and down is really kind of even when you're looking through your eyes, your eyes are positioned horizontally, not vertically, because you don't need the up and down as much as you need the side to side. And so that's why TVs and movie screens are made the way they're made.

Well, because American consumers or global consumers for that matter, when they pick up their smartphones. They have this uncanny capability of turning it 90 degrees when they watch a damn video, which is ridiculous. And so the video content that we produce now for the interwebs for the different social networks, they've said well, consumers don't turn their wrist 90 degrees.

So we're just going to make vertical video the thing Well, what vertical video does is it puts blinders on you you can't see from side to side now you're looking through the slit of a door. And it's it's just not an ideal experience when you're trying to visually see something. I've gotten used to it I produced that way you know the clients need the content that way. So now I tell my, you know, video crews that I work with, if I'm using a production company, or when I'm doing my own videos, I have to remember God shoot it vertically. And as much as it pains me to shoot it vertically. So I've, I've adapted, and I've adjusted, but I will never like it because it puts blinders on what you're watching, I hate it.

Now, even if you hate it, how should brands think about taking advantage of things like tick tock reels shorts, you know, Twitter just announced that they are going to come out with their own essentially, competitor to all of that, beyond, you know, work and say, with letting go of that influencer content creation to create it in the form that they want to? How should brands think about it? When it comes to those vertical formats?

Yeah, I mean, you just you have to think about it as this is the canvas consumers are giving me this is how they're watching video. And so you have to create the content that you're creating for that format. You know, it would be if you don't, it would be as if you shot something vertical, and then tried to play it on movie screen, you know, it just it's not going to look good. So use the Canvas that consumer behaviors giving you now. Yeah, there are limitations to it. As I said, it puts blinders on your perspective, you're looking through an up-and-down slit, as opposed to a wide angle kind of look.

But you can, you know, it helps you actually isolate and focus on the subject at hand, right. So if you're doing a vertical video where someone is talking, and they're just doing it selfie style, holding the phone out in front of their face, then the entire video is really consumed with the face, the head and shoulders of that person, that's actually pretty good, right? That's what you want. In that situation, you want all eyes and all attention on that person.

But if you're trying to shoot landscapes, or you're trying to show the enormity of a football stadium or something like that, it's going to be limiting, you're going to have to make sure that you're using pans, you're going to have to make sure that you're using various tricks to make sure that you can kind of bring in that full environment. But it's really just thinking about the canvas that way, it's a challenge to your creatives, especially those who who are used to working in the horizontal, you know, video style. But it's not an overcome bubble challenge. It's something that you can adjust to and those people who are creating personal content on social media are certainly used to it, because that's basically how people do it there.

Now, what is the most overlooked metric these days, you know, you talked about in the beginning, how companies typically get it wrong when you know what you've seen as an influencer, as well as companies that come and engage you. But what is by far either the missed the most misunderstood metric, or the one that is overlooked?

Oh, that's a good one. Now, the missing the most misunderstood metric is followers, your follower count, because keep keep in mind, okay, I'll use my own, you know, Twitter as an example. But you can apply this to really any network, it's not just a Twitter thing. So I have somewhere in the 95,000 followers on Twitter, and that's fluctuated over the years, at one point, I had almost 125,000. But Twitter, then you know, kind of flushed the old dormant accounts out and things like that, and put some new filters in for bots and all that kind of stuff. And I went, you know, from 120, down to 100, or whatever I'm at about 9495. Now, so the follower count, and of those 95, I would probably bet you that 40% of those accounts are probably dormant. There's a certain number of accounts that are probably still bots or something even though I've never bought or paid for followers, the bots that people other people pay for have to follow other accounts to look legit.

So you're everybody's got a certain percentage of bot followers, whether you've paid for them or not. And so basically, in essence, when you're looking at someone's follower count, you're not looking at a number that really is meaningful at all, what you have to try to do is look at, you know, the total number of followers and the engagement rate, or I actually like to drill down a little further and say, let's see if we can get the average number of impressions per post, because that's how many times that post is being seen or being presented on a screen to a potential viewer. Let's take that number and multiply that by the engagement rate, and you get a number what I call actually engaged. These are people who actually saw it and did something with it. And that gives you a better readout of the percentage of that person's audience or potential impression audience that are actually interacting with the posts. The higher that is I think the more successful you can be with influencer campaigns. So that's the one thing I try to look at to overcome the inefficiency of looking at your followers.

Now, something that you I mean, your podcast is called boy influence, not when influencer right so something that you have actively talked about is this difference between influence and influence. Sir. Can you go deeper into what you mean by that and why it's actually important?

Sure, yeah. So I like to think of it this way. We are not in the job of influencer marketing. We are not in the job of influencer marketing. Because that focus is on the individual person that focuses on the social media superstar. And that's not what we're trying to do. What we're trying to do is persuade an audience to take action. We're trying to influence people. And if you look at this industry and this practice through, you know, even a semantic hiccup, like influencer versus influence, because it's just one letter difference, and in general, people know what you're talking about. But the word influencer, so it sort of implies that you are focused on people on social media who have an audience there.

If you focus on, hey, I'm trying to influence an audience to take action, you actually don't have to have social media influencers in that equation. Because if ultimately persuading that audience to take action means that you have the local president of the Parent Teacher Association, talk to the audience that doesn't you don't care how many social media followers they have. That's influence marketing, you're actually trying to do what you're set out to do, you're trying to influence.

So I think because the word influencer has become a bit tainted primarily because the mainstream media only reports the negative about influencers and never looks at the positive. So I don't think influencers a bad word, I think it's been painted as a bad thing by the mainstream media. But because that word is tainted, I say, Well, let's not focus on influencers, then let's focus on influence or influencing. Because that's ultimately what we're trying to do. And when you look at it through that filter, and you actually pay attention to the semantics of the words, you realize that takes your blinders off. And you can see the full spectrum of what you're trying to accomplish, and the patent the various pathways that you can get to it.

One of our it's interesting that you say that, because of one of our really good friends, Chris Penn, who is smarter than the two of us combined, no doubt, plus some one time a long time ago, it might have been eight plus years ago, he said, and so this is way before influencer marketing was as mainstream as it is now and especially b2b influencer marketing, he said something to the tune of, if the product that you're trying to sell only applies or is only affordable by three or four or five people in the world, you only need those people to follow you on Twitter, and look at your content. He was describing people being obsessed with the total number of followers that you had. But it applies to this, you're only trying to influence that set number of people could be obviously, many more. But if you have those people in your set of followers, or your reach or the type of content that you're creating, then you're good. You don't have to have that person that has 500,000 2 million, whatever that is number of followers if they're not helping to solve that need for the business,

Right. And the way that I would sort of distill that down for people is to use that that you know, parent to the local PTA, the president local PTA as an example, if I'm trying if I'm the if I'm the local franchisee of the parent teacher store in Louisville, Kentucky. You know, somebody in town who's got 450,000 followers on Instagram doesn't do me a damn bit of good because less than probably one or 2% of that 450,000 followers is going to be in Louisville, Kentucky, right.

So I'm going to now 1% of 400,000 people is still enough people that yeah, I want to impact them, but I'm probably using my resources better by reaching out to the Parent Teacher Association, talking to the president they're talking to, you know, coaches of youth teams and whatnot, where I can get to parents because that's ultimately who I'm trying to reach. So you really have to if you if you take the car off the word and really focus on Okay, here's my purpose is to influence and my audience is parents in my local community.

The Instagrammer doesn't do you any good. It's not really going to be gonna produce for you the way it will be to get involved with some of these Parent Teacher organizations and other youth sports groups and youth activities because that's where parents are going to be. If you want to influence a bunch of parents in Louisville, Kentucky, you need to go down to Sky Zone or the local little Trampoline Park Place on a Saturday morning and sit there and just walk around talk to people because you're going to hit a bunch of them.

One of the things you mentioned is that the word influencer being tainted, and we could delve into why that's the case. Some of that's mainstream media some some of that's mega or celebrity influencers. But one thing that has been a debate as of late, especially the lower number of kind of followers or influencers however you want to say that is the debate beyond between people wanting to be called influencers and people wanting to be called creators. Now I have a deep-seated opinion on it. But what's your thoughts? Because I'm sure if you're hit with the same thing, you see the same conversations.

I mean, if you want to get really technical about the definitions, content creator is perfectly fine. But it kind of leaves out the part that they have an audience that they can impact. I like the term influencer I don't think that it's a bad word. I don't think it's a word we shouldn't use. I don't mind if someone says Please don't call me an influencer call me a content creators like Okay, fine. Well, you know, please don't call me portly call me handsome. I don't give a shit didn't. So I'll call them whatever they want to be called. But you know, ultimately, the term influencer, I think implies that this is a social media content creator, that has an audience. And content creator, by itself just means you create content, there are lots of people out there creating content who don't have an audience.

Now, I like the term content creator, because it reminds us don't focus on the number of followers focus on the type of content, focus on the engagement, focus on the quality of the creator and the relationship you have with them. So there's kind of a give and take there. I don't really care. They're interchangeable parts in my mind. But I definitely don't have as allergic reaction to influencers, some people.

I agree. And I think were you know, two things in my mind when I see that debate happen. One, you have to be a content creator to be an influencer online. Right? You're not going to become an influencer without some type of content creation. So that's number one. So they're interchangeable in that sense. And two, this is the Istat bit influencer marketing kind of term is an established part of our industry now, right? I lead influencer marketing for my company, that's not going to evolve into me being the head of content creators, right. So we just have to kind of roll with that, right. We have the established levels of influencers, we have the vertical career paths and companies and things of that nature. So I think the more that we get our mind wrapped around that the more that creators understand that they do create content, but they create content with the opportunity to potentially become an influencer. Plenty of people don't care about that, man. They just create to create, and no matter what happens down the road, you know, they don't want to move into that kind of role, man. Well, I think you get too wrapped up. I think some people get too wrapped up in that. Yeah,

I agree. And I think ultimately, what we're talking about here is content marketing. It's all content marketing. You know, it's creating content for social media channels, it's creating content, it might be that you create content on the brand side, it might be that you engage content creators or influencers to create content. For you, it might be that you engage them to create content for their channels on your behalf. It's all content marketing, it's all it all kind of breaks down and lives under that umbrella of content marketing. And you know, it's it's the primary way these days that you reach consumers because our media landscape is so fractured, and influencers just happen to be that qualified third-party person that can bring a little bit of trust to the equation, which is why it's so powerful.

Well, as we wrap up here, where can people find you online?

I am Jason falls everywhere. So it's me easy to find the consulting firm website. is false partners.com And if you're interested in marketing podcasts that's marketing podcasts.net

Absolutely, and he's being a little too humble. Definitely subscribe to win fluence. It's one bet every week when it pops up I listen to immediately when I'm in my car. Thank you Jason for your time. I know you are a busy man,

man. I've always got time for you, Justin. I appreciate you having me on.

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